I just caught this from two years ago on The Guardian‘s website. Two years behind, that’s about my speed. But it is a fascinating document of Elizabethan paranoia and skulduggery.
“A controversial document in which the playwright Christopher Marlowe reportedly declared that Christ was gay, that the only purpose of religion was to intimidate people, and that “all they that love not tobacco and boys were fools” is to go on show online for the first time [in 2017. Like I said, I’m two years behind].
“The so-called ‘Baines note,’ a star item in the British Library’s Renaissance manuscript collection, offers tantalising evidence about the private life of Marlowe, one of the most scandalous and magnetic figures of the Elizabeth period.
‘Baines added a personal note, apparently aimed at watching government officials: ‘All men in Christianity ought to endeavour that the mouth of so dangerous a member may be stopped.’ A few days later, Marlowe was stabbed to death in Deptford, south London, in circumstances still regarded as suspicious.The Guardian
Yeah, that’s the way to stop some member’s mouth: stab him to death. And lest we think this is anything new, remember, Italian police just found a body of a man who was killed by the Mafia and sealed up in concrete in the column of a building under construction. He had been there for awhile. Fun side note: The Mafia sometimes puts a rock in the mouths of stoolies after they’ve been offed.
But back to Elizabethan England: Christopher “Kit” Marlowe was quite a character. Just practically begged for offing.
“In the centuries since his violent death, Marlowe has been celebrated as gay icon whose works explored the realities of homosexual desire while it was still deeply dangerous to do so. Alongside the Baines note, the British Library has uploaded scans of the director Derek Jarman’s notebooks for his avant-garde film of Marlowe’s Edward II (1991). The play focuses on Edward’s love for his favourite male companion, Piers Gaveston; Jarman’s take on the story is nakedly political, featuring references to contemporary battles over gay rights.”The Guardian
The Jarman film, which badly needs the Criterion treatment, is a rather confused mess, just like the decade in which it was made: the 1960s. But if someone would, while this manic mania for remakes in Hollywood goes on, shoot Edward II as written (mostly), you’d really have something. Mr. Marlowe is pretty incredible for doing what he did at the time he did it. I’m surprised he lasted to the ripe old age of 29. The Guardian has lots of writing about him and his works and the performances thereof; some good reads in those articles.
Here’s the Baines spy document text, with notes from The Norton Anthology of English Literature. Because, in case, you know, you don’t know what Sodomy, papists and pimps are:
“Richard Baines to the Privy Council
“Shortly before Marlowe’s death, the informer Richard Baines made the following accusations against the playwright in a note to the Privy Council, the group of advisors who worked closely with Queen Elizabeth.
“[One Christopher Marly]
“A note containing the opinion of one Christopher Marly concerning his damnable judgment of religion, and scorn of God’s word:
“That the Indians, and many authors of antiquity, have assuredly written of above 16 thousand years agone, whereas Adam [Note: Adam; other copies have ‘Moses.’] is proved to have lived within six thousand years.
“He affirmeth that Moses was but a juggler, [Note: Juggler: cheater, deceiver.] and that one Hariot [Note: Hariot: Thomas Hariot, mathematician and author of A Brief and True Report of the Newfound Land of Virginia.] being Sir Walter Raleigh’s man can do more than he.
“That Moses made the Jews to travel 40 years in the wilderness (which journey might have been done in less than one year) ere they came to the promised land, to the intent that those who were privy to many of his subtleties might perish, and so an everlasting superstition reign in the hearts of the people.
“That the beginning of religion was only to keep men in awe.
“That it was an easy matter for Moses being brought up in all the arts of the Egyptians to abuse the Jews, being a rude and gross people.
“That Christ was a bastard and his mother dishonest. [Note: Dishonest: unchaste.]
“That he was the son of a carpenter, and that if the Jews among whom he was born did crucify him, they best knew him and whence he came.
“That Christ deserved better to die than Barabas, [Note: Barabas: Matthew 27:16; Mark 15:7; Luke 23:18-19; John 18:40.] and that the Jews made a good choice, though Barabas were both a thief and a murderer.
“That if there be any God or any good religion, then it is in the Papists, [Note: Papists: Catholics.] because the service of God is performed with more ceremonies, as elevation of the mass, organs, singing men, shaven crowns, etc. That all Protestants are hypocritical asses.
“That if he were put to write a new religion, he would undertake both a more excellent and admirable method, and that all the New Testament is filthily written.
“That the woman of Samaria [Note: Woman of Samaria: John 4.] and her sister were whores and that Christ knew them dishonestly.
“That Saint John the Evangelist was bedfellow to Christ and leaned always in his bosom; that he used him as the sinners of Sodoma. [Note: Sinners of Sodoma: See Genesis 19. In Tudor England, the term ‘sodomy’ applied to a wide range of proscribed sexual practices, including homosexual activity.]
“That all they that love not tobacco and boys are fools.
“That all the apostles were fishermen and base fellows, neither of wit nor worth; that Paul [Note: Paul: cf. Epistle to Romans (King James Version) 13:1-2. ‘1. Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. 2. Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves.” Note, however, that Paul continues, “Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience’s sake.’ (verse 5).] only had wit, but he was a timorous fellow in bidding men to be subject to magistrates against his conscience.
“That he had as good a right to coin [Coin: mint money.] as the Queen of England, and that he was acquainted with one Poole, a prisoner in Newgate, who hath great skill in mixture of metals, and having learned some things of him, he meant through help of a cunning stamp-maker to coin French crowns, pistolets, and English shillings.
“That if Christ would have instituted the sacrament with more ceremonial reverence, it would have been in more admiration; that it would have been better much better being administered in a tobacco pipe.
“That the angel Gabriel was bawd [Bawd: Pimp.] to the Holy Ghost, because he brought the salutation to Mary.
“That one Richard Cholmley hath confessed that he was persuaded by Marlowe’s reasons to become an atheist.”The British Library; Notes from The Norton Anthology of English Literature
Fascinating. And very highly effective. It’s a laundry list that ticks off every box in the “How to get yourself killed by Christians” guidebook. Baines must have had great fun with this. He got to offend everyone from Indians to the Holy Ghost, have another man killed for it, and probably pocketed some nice change for his trouble. Fabulous.